This month: 189 - Freedom in Christ
Exploring the Heart of Restoration

Remember Me    Register ›

Archives for June, 2021

God is love (1 John 4.16).

The Sabbath in the Bible was a day of many things. It was a day of rest. It was a day of family. It was a day celebrating God’s creation. It was a day celebrating redemption from slavery. It was a day of togetherness. It was a day that showed Israel what the world to come would look like. It was a day of basking in divine love with all of God’s creation. Remember love, God’s Love, Yahweh’s love.

Maybe we moderns do not “remember” that earth-shattering love nearly enough.

God loves you. God loves me. And God loves the entire creation, the whole universe and everything in it, unconditionally.

God’s love is not predicated upon our love for God.
God’s love is not granted if we worship God.
God’s love is not parceled on the basis of our righteousness.
God’s love is not proportionate to our obedience to God.
God’s love is not reciprocal (that is he will love us if we love God).

God’s love is infinite.

God’s love is eternal.

God’s love is unconditional.

These truths are so astonishing, so radical, so unbelievable, that Christians themselves routinely immediately try to qualify God’s love with a “but” some where along the line (usually along the entire line).

The only “but” is, there is no but. God’s love is unconditional. It is actively shown to every creature in creation.

Go show your love to your wife again,
though she is loved by another man and is an adulteress.
Love her as the LORD loves the Israelites
(Hosea 3.1).

God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us …
while we were enemies, we were reconciled to
God through the death of his Son
(Romans 5.8,10).

“the steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness”
(Lamentations 3.22-23)

You are a God ready to forgive,
gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love
and you did not forsake them,
even when they had cast an image of a calf for themselves
(Nehemiah 9.17-18).

you are precious in my sight,
and honored
and I love you
(Isaiah 43.4)

For God so love the world [the whole world] that
he gave his one and only son
(John 3.16)

For great is his steadfast love toward us,
and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever!”
(Psalm 117)

We should spend less time trying to qualify God’s infinite and unconditional love and more time in meditation on it, more time praising God for it, more time being astonished by it. We just might find ourselves deeply transformed and moved to simply worship the God of Infinite Love. A revolution might happen in our churches if we did.

John tells us about the “but” when it comes to God’s amazing love.

This is love, not that we loved God,
BUT that he loved us and sent his Son
to be an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 3.10)

Go Read Psalm 136 slowly.
Read the refrain audibly.

It can be very easy to think of love in abstract terms. For instance, it is easy to say “I love everyone.” But how does that really work out? It is a hypothetical that may have little basis in reality. We say we love everyone because we know we are supposed to love everyone (it’s hypothetical) but how does that look in real time? And how does that look when you interact with your enemy?

Love has to be more than a hypothesis. It must be true…fact…observable in real time. If love is a hypothesis in your life then spend time testing it and proving it to be true through observable actions.

Dallas Willard wrote,

“Jesus never expected us simply to turn the other cheek, go the second mile, bless those who persecute us, give unto them that ask, and so forth. These responses, generally and rightly understood to be characteristic of Christlikeness, were put forth by him as illustrative of what might be expected of a new kind of person – one who intelligently and steadfastly seeks, above all else, to live within the rule of God and be possessed by the kind of righteousness that God himself has, as Matthew 6:33 portrays. Instead, Jesus did invite people to follow him into that sort of life from which behavior such as loving one’s enemies will seem like the only sensible and happy thing to do. For a person living that life, the hard thing to do would be to hate the enemy, to turn the supplicant away, or to curse the curser… True Christlikeness, true companionship with Christ, comes at the point where it is hard not to respond as he would.”

Love is not abstract. Love is a lifestyle and an outlook that runs so deep that behavior fitting deep love only comes natural to us. That means love must be concrete…actionable and observable. If you want to know how deeply your love runs, look to what John told us in 1 John 4 – not only is God love but that because God is love we also ought to love each other. John doesn’t mean hypothetically in a “I love everyone” way but in a way that is observable.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.  This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.  Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:7-11

There has been no greater demonstration of love than the observable actions of Jesus on the cross. Since God has demonstrated his love for us, we also out to love one another. My understanding of Hebrew is that one way of making the same point is to say something twice in slightly different ways (Hebrew parallelism). If that is true in this case then the last verse is saying that “God so loved us” and us needing to “love one another” would mean we are to love others in a similar or same way God loves us. This is not abstract or hypothetical. If God’s love were abstract or hypothetical there would be no incarnation.

If I’ve learned anything over the past two years, it is this: I didn’t know who I was. I had spent the past fifteen years in ministry serving, loving, and helping. I looked good on the outside, but inside, I was withering away. Gasping for breath I pushed on. I was about to leave ministry for my sanity. I burnt out.


It was then that I begin to read the works of Thomas Merton. In his masterpiece, New Seeds of Contemplation, he laid forth the concept of finding your true identity. I had relegated this kind of thinking to the realm of pop psychology. I was wrong.


I lived my life in the expectations of others. I lived to be someone else’s version of me. I tried to please everyone and cover every base. I finally understood Bilobo Baggin’s. He says to Gandalf:“I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” I was weak, dying even – living a lie. Here in this crucible I learned this: I didn’t know who I was. I was living a lie. I was not being my self – the self God created me to be.


It was in this season of desperation that I begin to practice contemplative prayer. I begin to talk less and listen more in silence. I begin asking God, “Who am I?” “What is my identity?” I realized that the great tragedy of our humanity is that most of us go to our grave not knowing who we actually are. We live for others and try to be someone else to please the world around us. Yet, it is this activity that does great violence to our souls.


Here is what I learned: To become myself, I must stop being what I always thought I wanted to be. To find my identity I must go out of myself, and to live, I have to die. Jesus even says this. ” Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.” I must look for my identity in God alone, not in other’s expectations. Why? Becasue the self I spend my life building in light of others’ expecations is a lie. It is not who I am made to be.


As long as you must defend the imaginary self you think is important, you lose your peace and heart. You do violence to the very life you seek to live by replacing true, abundant life in Christ with an artificial existence. In other words, I am made in the image of God. If I add to that to appease others or to fuel my own ego, I unmake myself into the image of me.


If I say I am made in the Imago Dei, the image of God is beautiful. It is to say that I am like Him. I am a reflection of the beauty and glory of Him who breathes out the stars. If we follow the scriptures, we see the ultimate trait and marker of God and His image: love. To say I am made in God’s image is then to say that the entire reason for my existence is love, for God is love.


Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name. Without love I am nothing. Without love I am lost. My identity must be a fount from HIm, True Love, which springs streams of eternal life. May we be our true selves, as children of God, and as His Bride, the Church. Let our true selves identify in love and in turn, life. Let us not identify with a fake self, and thus be married to death. Let us step back, stop pretending that we know love, and let us truly experience God’s love – Divine, Eternal, and Peaceful. May we be reborn in the depths of our soul into the depths of His love.

Love is our identity.

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ.
~ 2 Corinthians 1:20

This is no vengeful deity
Who cuts off the outstretched hand
This is no capricious idol
Who plays chess with men’s souls;
No eternal checkmate
This is no prankster god
Who twists words and
Impales them upon intents
This is He
Who knows needs before they’re perceived
Who grants favors as they’re verbalized
Who invites us to believe
In what is not
Just so that He can make it
So:
This is the mighty God
of the perpetual
Yes

In times of crisis we tend to re-evaluate our concept of God based on how He is answering our prayers. That is always a mistake. He doesn’t want to be judged by us, least of all on the basis of how we perceive His “performance.” He chooses, instead, to be known by two characteristics from Psalm 62:12 that are rock-sure: He is strong (strong enough to bring about whatever He chooses) and loving (which means He wants the best for His people). So when it comes to our spiritual welfare, to our deepest needs, He is always ready to say, “Yes.”

——————————————————-

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
~ John 4:13-14

I read today of the convolute,
That tiny seaside creature
Who at birth gulps down a single algae-banquet:
Never to eat again, it lounges
Always in the sun
And feeds off its internal garden
For the rest of its life.

My life began when once I feasted on
Your unbelievable riches;
And their self-perpetuating bounty within me,
Nourished by limitless light,
Assures me that I will never hunger
For anything else again.

God has designed us as marvelously-engineered contrivances that must have periods of inactivity and fuel on a regular basis in order to function. In this way, we learn that we are dependent upon Him who commands rest and provides food. But the one thing most essential to our lives—a relationship with Him—is provided free and perpetual to anyone who simply asks. There is no effort involved, only that of submission.

————————————————-

I am the man who has seen affliction by the rod of the Lord’s wrath. He has driven me away and made me walk in darkness rather than light;indeed, he has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and my flesh grow old and has broken my bones. He has besieged me and surrounded me with bitterness and hardship. He has made me dwell in darkness like those long dead.

                                                                  ~ Lamentations 3:1-6

The hound of heaven has pursued me
And I coyly hid and cavorted–
Enjoying the chase
Even as I lost a finger or a toe;
Hanks of hair left hanging on
Limbs I’d left
Now
He has cornered me
And He is devouring my arms and legs
And the soft parts
Of my belly
And I have lost
The will to run

Francis Thompson lived over two hundred years ago in London. He was, by his own admission, a failure at everything he did in his early life—in relationships, in understanding life and his role in it, even in his profession as a medical doctor.

He reached his lowest point when he became an opium addict and was reduced to living as a vagrant, searching through the garbage and castoffs of others in order to survive.

“I was,” he reflected later, “a broken waif of a man.”

When he became a Christian, his life changed; but he never forgot how low he’d once sunk. He gave no credit to himself for his salvation, but instead described God as a hound that had pursued him until he caught him.

The process of being chased by Someone stronger and faster than you isn’t a pleasant one.

The only thing that makes such a thing endurable is the fact that God pursues us to save us from ourselves.

Dr. Latayne C. Scott is the recipient of Pepperdine University’s Distinguished Christian Service Award for “Creative Christian Writing,” and is Trinity Southwest University’s Author in Residence. Her newest book is Talking with Teens about Sexuality: Critical Conversations about Social Media, Gender Identity, Same-Sex Attraction, Pornography, Purity, Dating, Etc. with Dr. Beth Robinson (Bethany Books.) The author of over two dozen published books, including Passion, Power, Proxy, Release (TSU Press) in which these poems appear, she lives and writes in New Mexico. She maintains two websites: Latayne.com and Representationalresearch.com.

Let’s spend the month of June focusing on our loving God. The apostle John, who was in Jesus’ inner circle has one main word to describe God and it is “love” – “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” – 1 John 4:8.

John ties God being love with us being people of love just as Jesus tied his love to the need for his disciples to be people of love, known for our love.

The root to being a person of love or a disciple who loves is to really know God and Jesus. You cannot come to know them and not be a loving person.

As we come to a deeper understanding of God being a God of love in the month of June, let us make sure that information makes its way deep into our hearts and overflow in our interactions with others!